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Posts Tagged ‘Aborym’

Anaal Nathrakh has long been a favorite here at Spinal Tapdance HQ, from the raw, corrosive noise of the demos and debut full-length The Codex Necro to the more pronounced melodicism present on Domine Non Es Dignus, the extra slathering of industrial noise and unease on Eschaton and everything since.  With a sonic assault more bilious than any two blokes from Birmingham should theoretically be capable of, the duo of Dave Hunt and Mick Kenney are responsible for some of this young century’s finest black metal.  Anaal Nathrakh released their sixth full-length album back in May, and it is the delightfully nasty and unhinged Passion that serves as the jumping-off point for the following interview with vocalist and lyricist Dave Hunt (also known by his [un]Christian name, V.I.T.R.I.O.L.).  Dig in and blast out.

Hunt (L) & Kenney (R)

Spinal Tapdance: You’ve had a long-stated disinclination to print your lyrics, and have explained that you would prefer the listener to explore the themes hinted at in your song titles, album art, and so forth, on his or her own.  That’s a laudable goal, but do you think that’s a plausible expectation of listeners in an oversaturated consumer culture?  I suppose it could be argued that oversaturated consumers wouldn’t bother to read lyrics, either, so maybe what I’m trying to ask is whether your decision to not print lyrics has more to do with you, or with your perceptions of your audience.

Dave Hunt: Interesting way of putting it.  No, I don’t think it’s a plausible expectation of listeners.  But the ephemeral nature of virtually all significance in this oversaturated consumer culture is one of the main reasons for not printing lyrics.  It’s not that no one would read them, it’s that only a small proportion of those who did read them would actually pay attention to them.  That’s not particularly a condemnation of anyone, I just realize that people often don’t pay close attention to things.  And the people who would bother to properly read and think about lyrics are I think virtually the same people who will spend 5 minutes with google trying to figure out what’s going on even in the absence of lyrics.  Provided it’s understood that there’s anything really going on in the first place.  Hence trying to put bits and pieces in plain sight in the titles and liner notes etc.  But a plausible expectation?  Not at all, and that’s why we don’t actually expect it.  You don’t have to delve any deeper than the play button on your stereo to get something – hopefully something powerful – out of our music, or indeed most other music.  And if that’s enough for you, then fine – after all, we’ve put a shitload of effort into making an album, not an essay.  But all the same, if you’re interested enough to want to look under the surface, then it’s there for you.  In a way, withholding lyrics is almost an invitation.

ST: Many of your song titles are references to works of literature or other classical artistic endeavors (Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” on Hell Is Empty…, Dylan Thomas’s famous poem on Domine Non Es Dignus, now Joyce’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” on Passion, and so on).  Are these somewhat sly references to a cultivated, well-rounded education, or do the works in question have a direct bearing on the songs in which they are invoked?

DH: It’s a bit of a patchwork quilt.  Some of the references are simply because the phrases involved were appropriate – for example the Mozart one.  The vengeance of hell boils in my heart?  Brilliant.  ‘Hell is empty, and all the devils are here’ is a quote from Shakespeare, but in a sense of finding new meaning in the line when looking at the world now through the lens of Anaal Nathrakh.  So a sideways reference.  Whereas the Thomas poem might be differently intended, but I think it’s intensely compatible with the anguished sense of desperation and nihilism in what we do, so that title is more like a proper reference.  But none of it is meant to be an oblique way of saying ‘gosh, aren’t we well read?’.  Not at all, and I’d hate to be thought of as so arrogant a wanker.  It’s just a matter of going through life and finding things, thinking of things, trying to understand and express things.  We’ve never used a reference for any other reason than that it helped us articulate what we were trying to get across.

ST: On that topic, I’ve often wondered whether the clear rage and disgust present in Anaal Nathrakh’s music and themes ever tilts into full-on nihilism.  The reason I ask this is that your soaring clean vocals often seem to function as something of a check on the violently nihilistic aesthetic of all-out corrosive blasting.  When this is coupled with your invocation of Dylan Thomas’s famous poem “Do not go gentle into that good night” on Domine Non Es Dignus, I wonder if there’s a sliver of, if not hope, then maybe simple indignation that functions as a positive reaction to all the terrible things you see in the world.

DH: Hmm, that’s a nice point.  It’s not quite right, but I’m just pleased someone bothered to think of it!  The nihilism is present throughout, but it’s a specific kind – it’s not a conceptual nihilism which denies all significance.  At the risk of getting too wordy, I suppose you could call it a teleological nihilism.  There is potential significance, there is the possibility of something positive; a goal.  It’s just that it won’t happen.  I don’t think there needs to be some extra-planetary or objective ‘meaning benefactor’, and I wouldn’t presume to suggest what the actual or appropriate goals might be, but it does not seem to me that all content is devoid of significance, even if that significance is only subjectively generated.  Rather, it seems that any goal is too much to hope for.  We will drag it down, we will debase it, we will pervert it to serve our own venal self obsession – ultimately, we will fail.  Because of what we as humans are.  That’s what generates the rage and disgust, not the other way around.  And it also means that the light, the positivity, anything soaring or hopeful, is futile.  Which makes its existence all the more tragic, and ultimately almost spiteful.  The nihilism is produced by the conviction, not that there are only terrible things in the world, but that the existence of anything else is tantamount to torture.  I don’t know much Schopenhauer, but I gather it’s fairly similar to what he might have said.  I suppose in a way it’s almost grief.  But then that’s joined by a gleefully violent mindset which is given freedom by nihilism.  If you inflict suffering and take away all hope then that can create rage – but it also creates someone who has nothing left to lose.  I remember a song called ‘the truly dangerous nature of a man who doesn’t care if he lives or dies’ – well add to that ‘who has realized he was evil all along and has already been driven insane with rage’ and you’re about in the mindset.

Passion

ST: What would have to happen to make you write a happy song?

DH: I don’t know. I don’t understand happiness as well as I understand bitterness or desperation or melancholy, and it doesn’t come naturally to write about it.  I think that people in general find unhappiness, or at least positivity that comes only out of conflict with unhappiness, more compelling.  Think of cultural icons – of whatever kind – fictional or otherwise, and I think you’ll find support for that.  Batman, Beethoven, Blake, Van Gough…  None of them would be as interesting as they are without their demons.  I’d rather watch a Lars von Trier film than whatever feelgood hit for all the family is doing the rounds.  Maybe that’s just a personal dispositional thing, but I can’t see what would change that.  Finding god isn’t on the menu.

ST: I suppose this is a pretty nuts-and-bolts question, but you’ve explained elsewhere that Mick pretty much presents you with a bunch of more or less completed songs, to which you add your lyrics.  How do you go about deciding which lyrics or topics go to which songs?  Have you developed a certain way of lyrically interpreting the melodic and/or barbaric noises Mick brings to the table?

DH: Yes.  Each song idea or set of lyrics or whatever it is I’ve got at the time has a hinterland of things it involves and relates to, and if you run your mind over the various ideas while listening to the blank music, things start to fit into place in terms of atmospheres, sounds that would fit a given part of the music in such a way that they’d also be the right way to express a certain feeling in the words or whatever.  I can often hear parts in my head as soon as I hear the music.  Imagine if you’d written the words to the Queen song “The Show Must Go On,” along with words to a load of other songs, and you were thinking of the best way to express what’s behind them.  You wouldn’t pick the music of “Fat Bottomed Girls.”  And if there simply wasn’t a piece of music on the tape that worked with the words you’d written, they’d stay on the shelf until something came along that was right.  That’s if you ignore the possibility of writing the music yourself specifically for that purpose.  But in Anaal Nathrakh that wouldn’t happen anyway – I can do words and ideas and make horrific noises all day long, but Mick is the one who can write music.  Though it’s also often the case that the ideas I’ve had play into what Mick writes.  Not in a specific song sense, but it’s quite common that when he’s getting musical ideas together in his head, I’ll write out a semi-long hand explanation of the things I’ve been thinking about, or find pieces of artwork that resonate with it, and pass them on to him.  That doesn’t form the template for what he then does, because obviously he’s got his own creativity and things he wants to include, and I don’t at all mean to imply that I’m the mastermind behind it all, because I’m not.  We each do our part, and the music is Mick’s.  But it does mean there’s a certain compatibility of tone between what we’re both thinking from the beginning.  I’ve got loads of stuff that’s never ended up getting used in Anaal Nathrakh so far, but there’s never been a time I can think of that sitting with Mick listening to what he’s written hasn’t provoked a reaction that pointed to one idea or another that I’d got.

ST: Again, another somewhat utilitarian question, but since I have never tried to make such an unearthly racket with my vocal cords, I’ve no clue how it works.  Do you have a practice regimen to keep your voice in shape, or do you try and save it for recording and live shows?  Are there certain of your vocal techniques that are more difficult than others?

DH: No, I don’t practice or anything.  And I’m only human – obviously I can do this, or there wouldn’t be albums of it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hard.  My voice gets fucked up sometimes.  The thing I find hardest is recording the really harsh screams; oddly enough it’s easier live because you’re there in the moment, you’re sweating, half drunk, half mad because you’re psyched up for the show.  But when you’re recording, all you’ve got is a microphone in front of you and everything swirling around in your head.  So when you try to express that, it’s easy to go too far and blow your voice out in one verse, or you try too hard and it comes out sounding shit.  So you have to be mindful of what you’re doing, which can be hard if what you’re doing involves expressing the fact that you’re out of your mind!  I just try to remember that I’m trying to do something via the most extreme form of singing I can manage, rather than something so extreme that singing no longer applies.  On a tour, you have to be more careful – the temptation to get slaughtered the whole time is very strong, but if you do that every night for a week your voice won’t last for the rest of the tour – at least not with this kind of singing.  And the people who’ve bought tickets for show number 14 quite rightly don’t care if you couldn’t say no to the 20th beer the night before.  So on tours I try to look after myself a bit – not too much drinking after shows, get enough sleep etc.  It’s a pain to have to always have one eye on restraining yourself, but it’s a small price to pay.  One thing I do do though is experiment with making sounds, for example I’ve been trying to figure out khoomei recently [Ed: khoomei is a form of Tuvan throat singing in which several resonant tones are produced at once].  I have no idea what my neighbours might make of that.  But that’s as close to practicing as I get.

A study in greenish shadow

ST: Both Rainer Landfermann (ex- of Bethlehem) and Alan Dubin (ex- of Khanate and a shitload of others) put in severely demented vocal spots on Passion.  Do you feel any pressure to spice up your own bag of vocal-cord bothering tricks when you’ve got guests like that?

DH: No, not at all.  I don’t tend to see things as a competition.  It may sound like some soppy cliché, but really I just feel privileged to be able to be in the company of people like that, artistically speaking.  We only ask people whose work we respect and admire, so it’d be perverse to ask them, but then secretly hope they wouldn’t do anything you couldn’t beat yourself.  They’re just different, and that difference is a good thing.  In terms of what those two did on this album, I think it’s brilliant.  They both brought something unique with them and far from being intimidated, I simply love hearing what they did.  I’ve been blown away by Alan’s work, especially Khanate, for years.  And Rainer is both one of the most uniquely maniacal vocalists in extreme metal history, and a pretty inspiring guy to work with.  He threw himself into it, and before he’d agree to take part he had to ensure that the song and the ideas behind it were things he could 100% get behind.  That kind of integrity and commitment isn’t something you see every day.

ST: You’ve had a bunch of great guest contributions in the past, with the aforementioned vocalists plus Mories of Gnaw Their Tongues (a wonderful aesthetic pairing for Anaal Nathrakh if ever there was one…) on the current album.  Do you have anyone on a dream list of future collaborators, either in terms of vocals or noise/programming, or do particular names only come up when you’re working on a specific project?

DH: Possibly King Diamond.  I don’t know how realistic that is, but hey, we can dream.  But other than him, no, there’s no list.  We just think of what we’d like to do at the time.  Like I say, it’s just people whose own stuff we respect and admire, and who would be a good mix with Anaal Nathrakh.  There have only ever been two people who we’ve asked who haven’t ended up on an album – Philip Best from Whitehouse and Ghost from G.G.F.H.  Dr. Best was very nice about it, and took the time to write back giving his apologies for not having the time and wishing us well.  Ghost did say yes, but then I found out he’d sold all his equipment and given up music.  Though you never know, maybe he could be coaxed into it one day.  So those guys would be particularly special if ever we did work with them.  But other than that, we just see what happens.  There are a couple of names we’ve mentioned to each other as possibilities, but there are no fixed plans.

ST: Do you think the plethora of projects both you and Mick have worked in (Benediction, Frost, Mistress, Fukpig, Professor Fate, &c.) has influenced what you do in Anaal Nathrakh, or is Nathrakh the Ur-music, so to speak, out of which all those others spring (excepting Benediction, which obviously predates Anaal Nathrakh)?

DH: Neither.  Each thing we do is, or at least feels, completely separate.  I suppose subconsciously there’s probably some crossover, but to us they’re totally different to one another in the same way that you’d speak differently to a work colleague than you would to your spouse or a friend in a bar.  You’re still you, but different things naturally come into your mind depending on the context.  Common strands exist, of course – Mistress had a lot of hate and desperation, Benediction has a lot of aggression, and so on.  And these things are in Anaal Nathrakh as well.  But that doesn’t mean they’re linked on any more fundamental level or that one project gets the leftovers from another.  Everything gets 100% attention and commitment at the time.  I suppose you could say that if there’s an ur-anything, then it’s simply the personalities involved, and each musical outlet is a different facet of those.

ST: For quite some time, Anaal Nathrakh was a studio-only proposition, but in the past several years, you have done somewhat more frequent touring.  Was this change primarily about feasibility and finding the right opportunities, or was there a mental warming to the idea of playing live that wasn’t there formerly?

DH: It was definitely the former – while in the earlier days we may not have played live as Anaal Nathrakh, we were still playing gigs with other bands all the time, be it Mistress, Benediction, Exploder or whatever else.  But it simply didn’t occur to us that Anaal Nathrakh could work live.  Naïve, perhaps, but that’s how it was.  But then we found there were drummers who could play with us, and so we went out and did it.  Nowadays we’ve got a sufficiently stable lineup that we can at least consider most things that come along, and we’re lucky enough to be in a position where some of the things that do come along are interesting opportunities.  A few years ago the offer wouldn’t have come along, but if now we get offers to play things as potentially exciting as Scion in California a few weeks back, well then we’ll take them.  We still don’t want to overdo it to the extent that we or the audience grow over familiar with Anaal Nathrakh gigs, but there are plenty of places we’ve never played in, or haven’t played in for a while.  So somewhat more frequent touring currently seems like a good idea.

ST: Obviously, music journalists are always looking for heuristics, ways of grouping bands together as a form of descriptive shorthand.  Therefore, earlier in your career, it was pretty common to see Anaal Nathrakh described as industrial black metal, and compared to other groups like The Axis of Perdition or Aborym.  My question to you is, have you ever thought of Anaal Nathrakh in these terms, as a sort of urbanized, decaying industrial style of black metal, or have you simply been interpreting black metal (or metal, period) in the way you think it ought to sound?

DH: We’ve never really thought of it in any way that was contingent on external points of reference like that.  It’s not our version of metal, it’s what happened when we decided to make some music.  We were both into black metal when we started Anaal Nathrakh, along with a load of other stuff, and that’s what was in our heads. But that’s pretty much when we stopped thinking about it – as soon as we’d made a demo for which the only guiding principle was ‘nasty’, we only ever thought about what we wanted to do, rather than what anyone else was doing.  I suppose you’ve hit the nail on the head in the question – journalists, or more generally people who write about music, have to be concerned with stylistic intersections, tropes, trends and so on.  And to a certain extent some bands might be in terms of where they want to position themselves.  But in our case, as with I suspect many others, that’s not what we’re thinking about.  We just think about what’s exciting or stimulating or interesting for us to do, and then other people can worry about the rest.  The only time you’d really hear us mention anything like the name of a genre is if we’re talking about it after the fact and trying to work out what we did.

ST: Maybe this isn’t a question you can easily answer, given that you made an entire album about eschatology, but have you got a favorite doomsday prediction?  What do you make of the fact that for many cultures and religious traditions, eschatological beliefs are actually a source of hope rather than dread, in that the end times supposedly bring redemption or renewal rather than utter destruction?

DH: It’s both pathetic, and perfectly understandable.  Mankind has been obsessed with its own extinction – both individual and collective – since the dawn of time.  As far as I’m aware the oldest surviving example of human literature is The Epic of Gilgamesh, and among other things that’s about a hero grappling with mortality.  It’s one of the most fundamental aspects of mortal human life that we will at some point die, yet it’s also one of the most inscrutable mysteries, and wondering about it is part of what we are.  The redemptive aspect I do find a bit less natural though – to me, that smacks of vanity.  Many eschatological beliefs revolve around being part of a ‘chosen’ community; being one of the few who are recognized as having some kind of worth or significance that places them above the masses who will disappear, be blown up, washed away, or whatever it is they think will happen.  That just sounds like a kind of psychological coping mechanism to compensate for a feeling of insecurity or insignificance.  I can’t recall an eschatological prediction that says ‘noone will die, it’ll just be a huge event that makes everyone better without hurting a living soul’.  Think about it – given the number of different individuals or groups who think they’re the ones who will be redeemed or reborn, the likelihood of any given individual surviving is miniscule.  History may be written by the victors and/or survivors, but the truth is that most people sink without a trace.  It reminds me of past life regression – why is it that virtually everyone who undergoes it seems to think they were some kind of nobleman or royalty?  Hardly anyone ever seems to have been a serf or a turnip farmer.  The cold truth is that if there ever is a cataclysmic event, you’re far more likely to be one of the vast majority of losers than to find it a pleasant change.  As for favourites, well, I don’t actually think any of the predictions I’ve come across are true, but the fact that several different ideas converge around the end of 2012, that’s interesting.  McKenna sounds like he was at least half crazy, but to come down to a time that’s apparently within hours of a Mayan prophecy several millennia in the making – well, December next year should be a fascinating month.

ST: Do you think of Anaal Nathrakh as being a reflection or an indictment of the world around you?

DH: The reflection is the indictment.  It’s an attempt to see more clearly what’s going on, and realizing that that involves far more awful things than we often understand.  It might sound a weird example, but that’s a big part of what I thought Marilyn Manson was aiming at in his Antichrist Superstar period – he was just holding up a mirror, but one calibrated to show the underbelly, the gruesome parts of the society he was part of.  I’m no Manson buff, so I may well be off the mark, but that’s how it seemed to me.  So the things reflected in that mirror are still real, but people prefer not to think about them.  And in our case, that’s the indictment.  Look at what we are, look at what we do, look at what we have made.  If you’ve seen Apocalypse Now – and if you haven’t, you should – then we’re a musical cousin of Kurtz.  I don’t mean the militaristic attitude, I mean in terms of the fact that yes, he was mad, but he was also possessed of a frightening clarity, and he had been driven mad only by seeing what was truly out there.  I think of Anaal Nathrakh as howling at the desolation that apparently hardly anyone can see, and blaming the only thing it can consider responsible – everyone and everything.

Mistah Kurtz, he dead

ST: Lastly, I’ve been staring at this cryptogram-looking puzzle in the Passion booklet all morning.  You don’t need to give me any hints, but can you at least tell me if there’s an actual message to be decoded, or if you guys are just totally fucking with me?

DH: Haha, yes, there is an actual message.  It was to have been the name of the album, before we settled on Passion, and at the time it seemed like it summed up an awful lot about the world.  Plus the type of encryption is relevant in a wry sort of way.  But I’ll leave you to figure out what kind of cipher would be appropriate, and go from there.

ST: I really appreciate your taking the time to answer these questions.  I’m sure doing the interview rounds is a brutal slog, but Passion is another real neck-snapper, so it means a lot.  Cheers.

DH: And I appreciate your taking the time to make the questions interesting.  Interviews are only really a slog when you’re asked the same unimaginative question for the 150th time, and you avoided that.  So cheers, and glad you liked the album.

————————

Many thanks to Dave Hunt for taking the time to answer this interrogation so thoroughly.  Passion is out now on Candlelight Records.

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So, although Spinal Tapdance’s Top 30 Metal Albums of 2010 will post in three installments over the next few weeks (in addition to the Top 20 also appearing at MetalReview), this was such an excellent year for heavy metal that I just couldn’t bear calling it quits at 30.  So, perhaps to whet your appetite for the Real, Official Top 30, I present Spinal Tapdance’s 25-album strong Honorable Mentions list.  This list is only somewhat loosely organized, and in lieu of the traditional straight description of why the album smokes one’s face off, I will instead be penning a haiku for each contender.

The astonishing caliber of heavy metal represented on this list should be some indication of the strength of this year’s output, so read on, and take heart – there’s more yet to come!
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1.  Alcest, Écailles de Lune


Shoegaze and jangly
black metal is so soothing;
why am I crying?

2.  Horseback, The Invisible Mountain

Slow songs, long songs; songs
ride one groove forever, but
are fucking awesome.

3.  God Dethroned, Under the Sign of the Iron Cross

Faster than last one,
less epic but still rad, Re:
War to end all Wars.

4.  Early Graves, Goner

Fast, short, furious
grinding madness breaks your face –
Hail, fallen comrade.

5.  Ehnahre, Taming the Cannibals

Alien noise and
modem vocals make this one
venomous and odd.

6.  Black Anvil, Triumvirate

No nonsense metal
that gives no shit ’bout genres;
bang your goddamn head.

7.  The Howling Wind, Into the Cryosphere

Ex-Thralldom guru
makes a grim ascent to the
ceiling of the world.

8.  Weapon, From the Devil’s Tomb

So many riffs, so
little time to catch my breath
from so many riffs.

9.  The Secret, Solve et Coagula

Grind and black and doom
and ambient noise from the
most boot-like nation.

10.  Winterfylleth, The Mercian Sphere

Epic black metal
by nationalists, but hey!,
they are from England.

11.  Salome, Terminal

“Let’s play some slow riffs,
then put a tiny demon
on the mic – shit yeah!”

12.  Kylesa, Spiral Shadow


“Hey, ‘member the 90s?”
“Fuck you, this is still metal.”
“‘kay, let’s jam some more!”

13.  Electric Wizard, Black Masses

Like that time you got
stoned and joined a cult but then
fucked and played some doom.

14.  Celestiial, Where Life Springs Eternal

Funeral doom is
more like ambient when it’s
this fuzzed, nature-y.

15.  Vasaeleth, Crypt Born & Tethered to Ruin

You like death metal,
right? So, go live in a swamp
and kick ass at it.

16.  Aborym, Psychogrotesque

Classy shit, even
though the cover art is the
worst thing ever, yo.

17.  Sailors with Wax Wings, Sailors with Wax Wings

Pyramids dude, how
did you get these sweet people
to jam with your band?

18.  In Lingua Mortua, Salon des Refuses

Jittery and black
and smooth (with sax); better than
Vulture Industries.

19.  Cough, Ritual Abuse

A better ‘lectric
Wizard album than ‘lectric
Wizard did for years.

20.  Twilight, Monument to Time End

Call this the Atlas
Leviathan, if you want –
texture, ‘pocalypse.

21.  Coffinworm, When All Become None

Such a mean-sounding
band, but in all the right ways
(not a vagina).

22.  Anathema, We’re Here Because We’re Here


Twinkly emo songs,
or the truest sad music
your dumb ears can take?

23.  Father Befouled, Morbid Destitution of Covenant

Incantation, plus
Immolation, plus choirs and
other shit is boss.

24.  Cephalic Carnage, Misled By Certainty

Make death/grind, add your
own sound effects, then try to
keep count: you will fail.

25.  Void of Silence, Grave of Civilization


Dude from Axis Of
Perdition sings like Roman
God; plus, epic doom.

————————–

Stay tuned for more end-of-year coverage from your pal here at Spinal Tapdance.  Cheers!

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For no particular reason other than a few serendipitous songs popping up when I was playing my music on random the other day, I thought I might do a little bit of a country profile here.  Well, scratch that.  I’m not particularly interested in surveying all of Italy, scouring its lacquered boot from thigh to heel for all the heavy metal fit to print.  Instead, I present for your edification and/or casual annoyance a few of my favorite metal albums from the center of history’s most whined-about empire.

The land of Berlusconi is, if the records I’ve chosen to highlight here are any indication, far more than the libidinous Mediterranean caricature and reckless administrative policy would suggest.  By no purposeful design, just about all of these albums tend toward the black-ish side of heavy metal’s family tree.  Perhaps most notably, then, given the genre similarities, is that for the most part, these acts don’t seem to all be coming from one centralized black metal scene* (the way we imagine things do in France, Finland, Mozambique, or wherever).  Chalk it up to the proximity of Vatican City, perhaps, or a lingering fondness for the somewhat corpulent severity of Il Duce.  Who knows.  Something is rotten in the state of Italy, a confused Hamlet might emote (well, not Hamlet himself, of course, but, just fuck along and let me have my wordplay, you ass).
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Spite Extreme Wing, Vltra (2008)

This black metal band first intrigued me with their previous full-length, Non Dvcor, Dvco, but it’s on this, their most recent and, sadly, last album,  that they really shine.  A great dry production lends excellent clarity to the generally straight-ahead black metal within, which is given just enough touches of the avant-garde to keep the listener on her toes.  The tracks are all untitled, though the band slips in both a Misfits and a Beatles cover, which blend in rather better than one might suppose.  Special credit should also be given to that gorgeously evocative cover art.  No need to be tethered to the ol’ black and gray tones forever, black metal chums.
——————————-

Stormlord, Mare Nostrum (2008)

This album kicks so many tremendous servings of ass that it really ought to be illegal.  I suppose the best way to describe Stormlord is ‘blackened power metal’, but lest that dreadful word-mash make one think of Children of Bodom or whatever fucking black metal Dragonforce churned out before they were Dragonforce, have no fear.  This is purely epic, regal metal that deserves a far greater audience.
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Void Of Silence, Human Antithesis (2004)

Void of Silence is a somewhat clean-sounding doom/death act from Italy, through which has rotated a number of excellent vocalists.  2004’s Human Antithesis has the distinction of featuring the unparalleled vocal talents of Alan Averill of Primordial fame.  Just earlier this year, the band released a brand new album which is also quite tasty, featuring the vocals of Brooke from The Axis Of Perdition.  His vocals on that new album are something of a revelation, given the bile-flecked delivery of pure caustic rage typical of TAOP; with Void Of Silence he sounds like someone who has just realized he can belt out true epic doom vocals, and wants to wring every last possible speck of emotion from each phrase.  Human Antithesis is probably still the better record, with sounder songwriting and the more stridently confident vocals of Nemtheanga.  Honestly, it’s worth the price of entry just for the title track along, a gargantuan 20 minute journey to the deep, dark recesses of doom, like the crumbling edifices of history so oft-represented in the band’s artwork.
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Absentia Lunae, In Vmbrarvm Imperii Gloria (2006)

Absentia Lunae is probably my favorite band of the ATMF stable, which also includes Melencolia Estatica, Locus Mortis, Urna, Arcana Coelestia, and others.  To be honest, most of those bands share a similar aesthetic and sound, so if you like one of them, chances are you’ll enjoy most (if not all) of the rest; still, Absentia Lunae’s first album ekes out a triumph in my book, for its rather stately take on this much-abused genre.  It has that rather depressive air, without ever veering anywhere near to the abominable pit of mawkishness and repetition known as ‘depressive’ or ‘suicidal black metal’.  Blech.  Go listen to Dio, you fucking mopes.
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Hiems, Worship Or Die (2009)

Side project of dude from Forgotten Tomb, which project, frankly, I couldn’t give two shits about.  I really dug Hiems’ first record Cold Void Journey, but it was really just a perfection of a particular crisp, blasting version of black metal, whereas its follow-up adds a bit of black and roll spite and a touch more experimentalism, to quite headbangingly catchy effect.
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Beatrik, Requiem Of December (2005)


I know, I know.  I’ve just been yelling at you about this album recently.  Thing is, Beatrik’s swansong of an album is so utterly gripping that I feel like it needs to be shared.  Seriously, why aren’t you listening to this album RIGHT NOW?
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HomSelvareg, HomSelvareg (2005)


This band is also broken up now, which is a shame, really.  Their self-titled album (which, in its re-release – pictured above – also features bonus tracks from an earlier demo) is absolutely nothing new in the realm of black metal blasting, but it just feels so right.  The 1990s had the paradigmatic Grieghallen production, with its lofty reverb and wispy clarity; HomSelvareg’s album – rather like Hiems’ Cold Void Journey – has an entirely different way of doing things, and it just touches me in all the right places.  Gross.
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Thee Maldoror Kollective, A Clockwork Highway (2004)


This lot are a bunch of fucking weirdos, that’s for sure.  While the previous album from the Kollective, New Era Viral Order, will probably speak a bit more clearly to one’s blackened inclinations, I prefer A Clockwork Highway, on which the ambient, industrial, soundtrack elements become the actual building blocks of the songs, rather than superficial drapings atop fuzzily elastic-sounding ‘industrial metal’ riffing, as was too much the case on the previous album.  Alongside the strangeness of latter Manes and (maybe) Ulver, this TMK album is a great mood piece, albeit one that will never quite let you fully relegate it to mere background.
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Aborym, Fire Walk With Us! (2001)

Aborym have also just put out a new album – Psychogrotesque, out now on Season Of Mist – but for my money, this remains their best moment.  Fire Walk With Us! is genuinely unsettling music that ripples with a current of untamed electricity.  Yeah, it’s black/industrial, so if that’s not really your thing, I understand the hesitation to fully engage with this.  But, c’mon, it’s got Attila Csihar (of Tormentor, Mayhem, etc., etc.) on vocals, and the album closes out with the great tandem shot of a woozy cover of Burzum’s “Det Som Engang Var” and a seriously disorienting ambient/noise track in “Theta Paranoia.”  This record won’t just raise the hair on your arms; it will turn your arms into robot appendages, which will corrode and rust before your eyes while your gaze is transfixed by album cover’s red moon rising over a technological apocalypse.  Give it a chance – let this album get under your skin.
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This is, of course, ignoring your Bulldozers and your Ephel Duaths and your Abgotts and your, erm, Rhapsodies of Fire.  Exhaustiveness is not the point.  However, finding something new (note that every one of these releases comes from the past decade) from one of Europe’s less prominent extreme metal breeding grounds, well, it’s like picking out a choice figure out of the pandemonium (should that be panangelium?) of the Sistine Chapel.  (This preceding sentence brought to you by the familiar trope in music criticism that Michelangelo’s paintings are an easy analogue to a few dozen angsty young musicians bashing out hymns to the devil.)  Salute!
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*Though such congregations do crop up here and there – see the grouping of artists around the ATMF label/ethos for a prime example of that in action, or, more loosely, the always-intriguing Code666 label.  Always curious to know if a few bands develop, followed by a sympathetic label, or if it goes the other way around.  Case studies abound, assuredly.

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Season Of Mist has released the cover artwork for Aborym’s upcoming album, Psychogrotesque, and it’s almost like they are begging for the obvious puns, because the artwork is, well, rather grotesque:

An Off-Broadway Production of "The Amityville Horror VII: In Which Shit Gets Real"

Ugh.  Seriously, that’s some nasty business right there.  Looks to me like it should be (dis)gracing an album by a third- or fourth-rate gothic “metal” band, circa 1999.

Despite this abominable image, I’m still quite excited to hear the music, and can only hope the band continues to refine its dense brand of black/industrial mayhem.  2006’s Generator thankfully reined in some of the more egregiously club/EBM-leaning excesses of 2003’s With No Human Intervention, so let’s hope they keep up that positive streak.  Psychogrotesque is out in November on Season Of Mist, and features among its many guests Davide Tiso, the dude behind fellow Italian wacko-metallers Ephel Duath (whose most recent, Through My Dog’s Eyes, was, frankly, shit), and Karyn Crisis, she of (obviously) Crisis fame.

If you feel like having your eyes assaulted again with that image, visit the band’s MySpace page for more information on the upcoming album.  According to the band, apparently the album is a “realistic story about the horrific human aridity and its fragile impotence.”  Far be it from me to bust some Italian dude’s for some suspect English, but that description makes it sound like the album revolves around people being terrifyingly dry and simultaneously flaccid.

Which, who knows, is maybe your thing.

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I know I mentioned this last week when I first came across the news item that Norwegian industrial metallers Red Harvest had called it quits, but I’m still bumming pretty hard about it, so I thought it warranted a slightly lengthier response.

Cold Dark Metal

The posting on the band’s MySpace page reads simply: “Red Harvest has split up as per May 2010.  We want to thank all the people that have supported us through the years.  1989-2010 R.I.P.”

Generally speaking, I’m a sucker for industrial-tinged metal (especially on the blacker end of the spectrum – Axis Of Perdition, Aborym, Control Human Delete, Anaal Nathrakh, Blacklodge, Void, Reverence, The Amenta, Herrschaft, (late) Dodheimsgard, and so forth).  The thing is, it’s not all that difficult to slap a superficially industrial sheen on whatever bog-standard metal one might by plying, by either tossing in some mechanically-processed vocals, or chucking in a few samples of hammers clanking.

Red Harvest, though, were (ach, it still stings) the real deal.  The industrial elements of their sound never came across as an afterthought to these ears.  Instead, they seemed like the true, eerie, pulsating heart of their sound, a genuine reflection of rust and filth and urban decay.  Theirs was not the slickness (however satisfying) of the Moonfog aesthetic, nor the aural overload of early Axis Of Perdition.  Their music exuded a bleak patience, taking the time to survey and catalog the ruin before them, rather than shying away in a hurry, or over-stylizing the reaction to modernity’s underside into a coolly calculated but unconvincing disregard.

(Note: Red Harvest’s departure from the scene is a doubly-hurtful blow since V:28, who I had long considered the closest spiritual kin to Red Harvest, also split up a while back.)

To be fair, I only really followed their output from 1996’s HyBreed and beyond (mostly out of necessity, though, given that their first two records are insanely tough to track down), but damn, was that one hell of a run.  The band really seemed to get their shit together right around 2000’s Cold Dark Matter (tightening the album down to 39 minutes from the nearly 80 minutes of HyBreed was a crucial step), featuring Fenriz on the monster of a track “Absolute Dunkel:heit.”

For my money, though, 2002’s Sick Transit Gloria Mundi saw the band’s purest distillation of the rhythmic, maniacal undulation of equal parts industrial, noise, ambient, and furious metal.  The fact that the metallic components of the band’s sound are not easily reducible to death metal, black metal, thrash metal, or anything else, really, is a testament to the band’s unique vision and clarity of purpose.

Even on the band’s last full-length album, A Greater Darkness (which some saw as a step down), they were mining new depths of more focused, clenched-jaw grimness:

Their final release was a 2008 compilation called The Red Line Archives, which collected remixes, archived tracks, and selections from several of their albums.  The intention of the compilation seems to have been to highlight the more purely industrial elements of their sound; the fact that the album plays like an album, even though it seems to miss a crucial something (it is taking most of my energy to not be an asshole and type je ne sais quoi), I think illustrates just how much the industrial elements were not a gimmick.  That is, if the industrial elements were merely layered over the top of already finished songs, pulling them together on a compilation should have only highlighted how anemic they sound without a solid metallic support.  They are not, and therefore they did not.

All of this is to say, if you haven’t yet discovered the wide-eyed joys of Red Harvest, now’s as good a time as ever to explore, and if, like me, you’re mourning their departure, now’s a perfect time to reengage with their harrowing dystopian metal.

Here are videos of Red Harvest playing three songs live in 2009, at a 20th Anniversary party for themselves in Oslo:

“Beyond the End” (From Sick Transit Gloria Mundi):

“Omnipotent” (From Cold Dark Matter):

“The Cure” (From Nomindsland):

The live sound isn’t the greatest, but you can still feel their hypnotic wrath.  Sit back and get pulled in to this black hole metal.

A.A.V.

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One can hardly crack open any corner of the internet lately without being subjected to the annual rite of Wistfully Realizing That Summer Is Nearly Over.  That fact, coupled with the release this week of Iron Maiden’s latest album The Final Frontier (itself a potential wistfulness-fest in its own right), which seems to have been one of the more high-profile and highly anticipated metal releases of the year, has left me with that vague twinge.

You know, that “Ah, shit, 2010, it was nice to know you, but I guess you’re off to stay at that farm upstate where you’ll have all the room to run and play that we couldn’t offer you here at home” sort of twinge.

So, as a bit of a patch on this collective maudlin tendency, I thought I’d tally up some of the albums which are still slated to be released in this humble Year Of Our Narcissism 2010 for which I’m most excited.  This is by no means intended to be an exhaustive (or even particularly informative) list; this is just the stuff that I’m keeping tabs on, all sweaty palmed and fidgeting in my seat.
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– Blind Guardian, At The Edge Of Time.  The full-page ad I keep seeing in the magazines has a quote describing this as something like “ethnic and pure.”  Sounds a bit dodgy, but I’m just hoping “ethnic” is a poorly-chosen synonym for “folk-ish.”  A Twist In The Myth was a little dull for my tastes, so here’s hoping they spice things up.

– Venetian Snares, My So-Called Life.  Not metal, sure, but Aaron Funk has consistently put out some of the most intense electronic music of the past decade or so.  Plus, Detrimentalist was the fucking shit.

– Christian Mistress, Agony & Opium.  Classic NWOBHM tunes fronted by a Björk-esque singer?  Hell yeah.  Bring it on, 20 Buck Spin.

– Infernaeon, Genesis To Nemesis. Their debut from a few years back was more than a little shaky, but I’m hopeful for this one.  Sure, this is unlikely to be the second coming of Nocturnus’ The Key, but hell, there’s a lot more room in death metal for keyboard experimentation than in black metal.

– Cephalic Carnage, Misled By Certainty.  Cephalic Carnage have always seemed like the quintessential Relapse band to me.  I know they didn’t pioneer the stuff, but their widdly death/grind/tech/whatever whirlwind tends to satisfy like lemonade on a sweltering summer’s day.

– Black Anvil, Triumvirate.  Pretty psyched for this, and you should be, too, if you’re looking for an updated take on Darkthrone’s mid-period crust-covered Celtic Frost-isms.

– Unearthly Trance, V.  The upward trajectory of this band has been astonishing over their past four albums.  Electrocution was a pitch-perfect distillation of what it seems like they’d been working toward all-along, so who knows where they’re going next?

– Melechesh, The Epigenesis.  Melechesh have lately been everything Absu quit being a while back.

– Drudkh, Handful Of Stars.  Drudkh’s form has changed deceptively little over the years, leading some to interpret that as stagnation.  Listen carefully to the last few records, though, and you’ll hear the results of slight tinkering to an entirely unique sound.  The prominence of bass on Microcosmos alone should have signaled that no matter how hateful the forests these Ukrainians haunt, they’re deadly serious.

– Salome, [Title Still Unknown].  Profound Lore has been dropping some tasty hint-morsels lately about this album.  Vocalist Kat added the third prong to Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s triple vocal attack on lats year’s Agorapocalypse, but hearing her vocals attached to scathingly crippled sludge is another thing altogether.

– Torche, Songs For Singles.  Rumor is, the record’s too short, and maybe also too awesome.  Blown off as pop metal by plenty of those who don’t realize that Torche combine some of the best attributes of pop and metal, meaning maybe the epithet’s actually a back-handed compliment.

– Enslaved, Axioma Ethica Odini.  The title seems like a Latinized version of “The Ethical Axioms of Odin.”  Presumably that gives just as little clue to the musical contents as the Latin version, though.  This is one of my most feverishly anticipated records, though; Enslaved have been completely unstoppable to this point.

– Krieg, The Isolationist.  Okay, so I really dug The Black House, but thought Blue Miasma was uninspired and dull.  Adding Leviathan’s Wrest to the band (on bass) is more than sufficient to pique my interest, though.

– Cradle Of Filth, Darkly Darkly Venus Aversa.  Wow.  This may actually be a worse album title than the new Enslaved.  Plus, it’s Cradle Of Filth, so any credibility I may have had is likely a shredded mass of bloody pulp by now.  But you know?  I still kind of dig Cradle Of Filth, and Godspeed On The Devil’s Thunder was light years better than most of their recent tripe.  So, y’know: Fuck off.

– Therion, Sitra Ahra.  Here’s to hoping that bringing things back to a single-disc release can bring slightly more focus than recent efforts.  Sure, Sirius B / Lemuria worked well in tandem, but given how good just the right amount of Therion is, too much Therion is a headache-inducing proposition.

– October Tide, A Thin Shell.  More gloominess, please.

– Sailors With Wax Wings, Sailors With Wax Wings.  Pyramids side-project with tons of unexpected participants and collaborators from throughout the metal world?  Excellent.

– Kylesa, Spiral ShadowStatic Tensions was one of my favorites from last year, so I’m pretty psyched that they’ve already got a new album coming out late October.

– Vulture Industries, The Malefactor’s Bloody Register.  Slightly off-the-wall black metal from a who’s-who of mainstream underground (it’s a fine, confusing line) Norwegian black metal.  Not for the ‘true’, likely, but true for the rest.

– Virus, The Agent That Shapes The Desert.  I did a little plug for this upcoming album a little while back.  I’m hoping the band can get enough pre-order support from all you good folks out there in Awesome Metal Appreciation Land to make this a 2010 release.  Fingers crossed, then…

– Aborym, Psychogrotesque.  Completely fucking no joke, a few days ago I was posting on Twitter about how I was hoping to see some new music from Aborym someday soon.  Lo and behold, maybe the very next day or so comes through the news item that they’ve got a new album coming out this year.  Shit!  Generator trimmed back on some of the detrimental excess of With No Human Intervention and cranked out some seriously deranged black/industrial anthems.  That title’s a bit shit, but still my soul hungers for the bleakness.

These last few are already out in Europe, to be fair, but I’d really love to see them picked up by a U.S. distributor rather than paying import prices:

– Ondskapt, Arisen From The Ashes.  Last one was a beast.  Make this one beast-ier?

– Kvelertak, Kvelertak.  Everything I’ve read about this band has made me want to drink some beers and crank the record.  And yet, if I am forced to pay import prices for it, I will have no money with which to drink some beers.  An existential conundrum if ever there was one.

– Winterfylleth, The Mercian Sphere.  Their debut full-length The Ghost of Heritage was quite impressive, but had a few too-ragged edges.  Here’s to hoping they’ve smoothed out in all the right places.  Still, these guys and Wodensthrone are making an awfully compelling case for an English black metal renaissance.
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So, as you can see, friends, it looks like there’s still plenty to be looking forward to this year.  And that’s just counting the ones that I’m actively looking forward to; who knows how much metallic gold remains to be mined with everything I’m sure I’ve forgotten or overlooked?  Embarrass me with the breadth and exquisite sheen of your “Most Looked Forward To’s”

Oh, and I know I can’t include them here, but Devin Townsend has been hinting that the last two albums of the…quadrilogy (?) will both be released in March.  So, sorry, Ghost and Deconstruction, but I can’t put you on 2010’s list, even though I am milliseconds away from pissing myself with glee as I type.

Plus, I keep hearing random whispers about expecting a new Pig Destroyer one of these days, but nothing definite yet.  I mean, I keep prowling all over the damn yard, looking for something new with which to terrify my phantom limb.

My bones quake with the sickness.

The world is a frightful place, and hope the only salve.  Heavy metal for the common good.

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